STRICTLY COME LEARNING… WHAT THE DANCING CAN TEACH US IN BUSINESS
Here we are in the middle of another series of Strictly Come Dancing with all its sweat, sparkle and controversy and I have been thinking about how this relates to the world of training, coaching and learning.
Firstly I must confess to my addiction to both the show and to the pursuit of ballroom and Latin dancing! I spent most of my childhood being carted around in the back of various parent’s cars surrounded by yards of netting and chiffon to dozens of weekend competitions and events – luckily the dresses are rather smaller and softer these days and I can drive myself. I returned to dancing two years ago, it felt almost as if I’d never left the world of sequins. Since then have been making a study of ‘how dance teachers teach’ and what dancing can teach us about learning and managing people in the workplace.
Strictly is a great ‘case study in learning’. This kind of dance is complex to learn – it must be correct technically (heels and toes in the right places), you must be in time with the music (a different dance every week with different timing to boot), you must move your feet to the right position and then use the arms attractively. Of course there’s the head and smile to consider and finally the frame – especially challenging for the male celebrities who have to lead their partners. It’s a set of skills that take most people years to master yet for some reason we expect perfection in just a few short weeks.
The dance professionals (the pros) seem to do a great job overall however they apply different approaches to their teaching. We witness some showing 100% support and confidence in their celebrities from day one; others show their frustration and sometimes despair at the lack of progress or aptitude of their celebrity partners. Some follow a softly-softly one week, with tough love the next week whilst always showing their solidarity on screen on Saturday night in a bid to get those votes!
When the training starts the pro has all the power, the knowledge and the skills to teach their apprentice. They quickly assess their potential and then attempt to build on the early emerging strengths whether they are an innate ability to spin confidently without falling over or a comic personality that can carry the dance and win over the voting public.
Each week there is a goal – a new dance, to perfect within a tight timescale and there is always the fear of the dreaded ‘dance off’ and eviction from the ‘Strictly Family’ where bonds grow fast in this shared experience.
This links neatly with the ‘GROW model of coaching’. G = Goal (the dance), R = Reality – the Monday morning assessment of skills for that dance and what can be realistically achieved in the rehearsal time available, O Options – what choreography will work best with the music to win votes, W = Will – the commitment to training, the desire to do well and not be in the dance off!
As their celebrity experiences their ‘journey’, their skills develop, their confidence increases and the pros let them have some say in their chorography, allowing them input, engaging them more as an equal partner moving from a predominately mentoring role into a more coaching role.
Finally we come to feedback and the judges! Confusingly for the celebrities each judge may have a different perspective or opinion on the performance to say nothing of their attitude! The dancers might hear anything from “you’ve really nailed it this week” to “that was a dance only a mother could love!”
Those of us in the world of learning are all too familiar with the Rules of Giving Constructive Feedback….. (it should be honest, positive, specific, relate only to things that can be changed etc) however I suspect that the judges may not have read these rules plus they have an additional brief to be entertaining to the huge Saturday night audience where viewing figures really count.
This week judge Craig told one celebrity that she looked like a bush kangaroo when she did her Viennese Waltz…. what impact do you think that will have on her performance this Saturday? I can’t wait to find out can you?
22nd October 2009
(Edited by Sharon Mapley - original submission Friday, 23 October 2009, 06:04 PM)